Dash cams, automated speed enforcement can put brakes on B.C. car-crash rate

Last year, as discussions about the future of the Insurance Corp. of British Columbia (ICBC) intensified, our province achieved a dubious distinction. The total number of vehicle crashes reported in 2017 was 350,000, an increase of 25% over the previous year. This amounts to 960 vehicle crashes every day.

Throughout the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to ask drivers across the country many questions. Most Canadians have specific things they dislike, from those who hog the passing lane to those who cannot leave their cellphone out of their hands. There is also a hint of racism in the complaints about which drivers are the worst in a specific municipality, and an obsession – in British Columbia – of blaming cars with Alberta licence plates for most problems on the road.

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The reality is much more complex than the anecdotal evidence may suggest. With almost 1,000 crashes happening each day in British Columbia, not everything can be blamed on drivers from other countries or provinces. There are also difficulties with enforcement and proper assessments of blame. Rarely a week goes by in any municipality without another crude poster appearing, asking for witnesses to a collision where someone decided to leave the scene.

There are two ways to try to reduce the number of crashes. One is protecting ourselves as drivers; the other is protecting others who are on the road. Both solutions entail technology – dash cams and automated speed enforcement.

First, let’s look at dash cams. Some drivers across our province have begun to install them for added layer of security in case they are involved in an accident. A dash cam is a hands-free device mounted in a vehicle that can record footage and provide video evidence.

Dash cams can help determine which driver was at fault in the event of an accident. Of course, the claim still requires statements from drivers, witnesses and police, but capturing the moment of a collision can play a valuable role in establishing liability.

Insurance companies in the United Kingdom are already offering discounts to drivers who install dash cams in their cars. In Thailand, the devices have proven successful in curbing the ridiculous and costly practice of “staged accidents,” in which pedestrians jump onto the hood of the car and then claim to have been hit by a driver.

In a survey I conducted in November 2017, 70% of British Columbians agreed with the idea of offering a discount to drivers who have a dash cam installed in their vehicle. It seems like a simple investment that could go a long way in reducing the amount of time it takes to process claims.

Now, let’s look at automated speed enforcement. It works by using cameras or sensors to detect when a vehicle is speeding. A ticket is then issued to the owner of the vehicle. Driver’s licence points are not issued as the driver of the vehicle cannot be identified.

The provincial government is studying whether to rely on operational red light cameras to identify speeding vehicles. Over the years this has been a politically charged topic in our province.

In the spring of 2001, when the only thing in doubt about an impending provincial election was the size of the victory by the BC Liberals, “photo radar” became a bit of a cause célèbre for centre-right politicians and their voters. It was characterized as a cash grab, and its elimination was one of the main priorities of the first Gordon Campbell government.

A lot has changed since 2001. We can no longer legally talk on our cellphones while driving. Cars have become more “intelligent” and keep us connected to the world in different ways. It is now rare to see a person unfolding a map on the passenger’s side –most co-pilots are relying on GPS. As technology has changed, so have the views of our province’s residents on automated speed enforcement.

The idea that the government is reviewing is defined internationally as “speed-on-green.” It means relying on existing red light cameras to capture vehicles that are speeding through specific intersections. Across the province, 70% of respondents to a recent Research Co. survey said they approve of this type of automated speed enforcement, and 71% endorse the use of fixed speed cameras, which stay in one location and measure speed as a vehicle passes.

It remains to be seen what type of enforcement, if any, the provincial government decides to bring in. With ICBC in a precarious financial situation, crashes climbing to all-time highs and claims taking longer and longer to be processed, technology may play a big role in changing our roads for the better.

 

 

STATISTICS:

 

Do you agree or disagree with B.C. drivers who have a dash cam installed in their vehicle getting a discount in their car insurance?

Agree 70%, Disagree 24%, Not sure 7%

Survey of British Columbians conducted from November 11 to November 14, 2017.

 

Do you approve or disapprove of using speed-on-green intersection cameras?

Approve 70%, Disapprove 23%, Not sure  6%

Survey of British Columbians conducted from August 2 to August 5, 2017.

 

Do you approve or disapprove of using fixed speed cameras?

Approve 71%, Disapprove 24%, Not sure 5%.

Survey of British Columbians conducted from August 2 to August 5, 2017.

 

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